Tag: easter (page 1 of 6)

Something Better Coming

I have written recently, in a few different places, about the loss of a very good friend and about her legacy. My daughters didn’t get to meet her, but they love her because she loved them—Leslie always asked about them, and even sent the occasional birthday gift their way, so she was a sweet presence to my girls even though she lived on the other side of the country.

The other day, my daughter asked about Leslie’s birthday. “We have to celebrate it,” she said. But when I opened my contacts to double-check the date of Leslie’s birthday, my daughter grew suddenly still. “You mean,” she said quietly, “you used to text her, but now—you can’t anymore?”

And then she slipped her arms around my waist and squeezed hard.

My friend has been gone for almost a year, but somehow that was the thing that made her death real—and suddenly, acutely wrong—for my daughter. That realization that, though my friend lives still, in a newer, better way, no message I can send her now will reach her.

“Oh death, where is your sting?” Scripture proclaims (1 Cor. 15:55). And yet, we feel the sting of death around us all the time—as it claims those we love, or in any number of endings that are woven into our daily lives. Things aren’t what they should be, and even our children know it on a bone-deep level.

And so I’m grateful for the season of Lent, where we expose that undercurrent of dis-ease for a bit and put it in its proper place, by reminding ourselves and one another that it will not always be this way. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, death will truly—and forever—lose its sting.

Megan Saben’s book Something Better Coming shows beautifully the hope and anticipation we have, in Christ, as we lean toward Easter. By telling the stories of the resurrections Jesus performed, each one building upon the previous one and pointing toward the next one with the refrain “There’s something better coming,” she gives readers a sense of culmination and completion through the story of Jesus’s resurrection.

This is a glorious way to read the Easter story. We see, through the building tension, that his resurrection was not a single event, disconnected from Scripture, but one woven seamlessly into it—a grand disruption, yes, but one that was promised and foreshadowed through a series of smaller resurrections sewn all throughout the Bible and, specifically, the Gospels.

I am deeply grateful for the truth of the resurrection and for its assurance that, though death stings now, there’s something better coming. I’m glad for that truth when I squeeze my daughter back and assure her that it won’t always be this way—there’s something better coming.


Something Better Coming
Megan Saben; Ryan Flanders (2022)


Though I did receive a free copy of this book for review, I am not being paid to promote it. My enthusiasm for this book is abundant and purely voluntary!

Bare Tree & Little Wind

A few weeks ago I gave my pilea—a peppy little houseplant, with leaves that seem to float in the air like lilypads—a trim. By which I mean, I cut it down, all but an inch-high stem. (It was leggy and discolored, and this was a desperate last act to save it from the compost pile.) I watered that stump well and placed it in a sunny window, back by the washing machine, where looking at it every day wouldn’t make me sad.

And guess what? Less than a week later, I spotted a fur of green on the stump, little specks here and there. A few days later, those specks were freckles; a few days after that, they were clearly infant leaves sprung from a stump I’d almost despaired of saving.

That, dear readers, is Easter. Sometimes you have to sit with the dead stump and wonder how God could bring life out of anything so decayed. And sometimes you get to clap with delight and proclaim, “Life! Life!” It goes on whether we’re ready for it or not.

Bare Tree and Little Wind, by Mitali Perkins | Little Book, Big Story

Mitali Perkins’s beautiful new Easter book shows life surviving in the unlikely, burned-out places, only to bear fruit long after new fruit seemed possible. Through the characters Bare Tree and Little Wind, Perkins tells the story of Holy Week. But she doesn’t stop at the resurrection: as Little Wind travels through Jerusalem, visiting his favorite trees and witnessing Jesus’ death and resurrection, he visits, too, with Bare Tree—a palm whose fronds, seeds, and dates have been so thoroughly harvested that all that’s left of her is a stump. But when soldiers burn the beautiful palms of Jerusalem in the years after Jesus’ resurrection, Bare Tree’s apparent barrenness becomes a hidden blessing.

Bare Tree and Little Wind, by Mitali Perkins | Little Book, Big Story

Mitali Perkins (Forward Me Back to You) has swiftly become one of my favorite authors, and this book shows exactly why. It reads like a folk tale—but different. Like a traditional Easter story—but not quite. She brings a voice and perspective all her own to the story and invites us to see Jesus’ death and resurrection through the eyes of God’s creation.

And Khoa Le’s illustrations? They are gorgeous! Just as Little Wind seems to soar from one corner of the page to another, so the illustrations seem to lead one into another so that the whole book feels beautifully arranged and organically whole. Even the saddest parts of the story seem to promise life and hope. Which is true even today: our God is continually bringing life out of death and unfurling little leaves in the unlikeliest places.


This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the April 19 release of Wild Things & Castles in the Skya book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie & Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author who graced us with a powerful interview for Wild Things.


Bare Tree and Little Wind: A Story for Holy Week
Mitali Perkins; Khoa Le (2022)

Darkest Night Brightest Day

Does any holiday capture both light and darkness the way Easter does? It is a study in contrasts: the deepest depth of all human history, followed three days later by the brightest light. But I’ve noticed, in my extensive research on Easter books for children, that many Easter books tend to favor the light over the dark. The hope over the despair. And considering the audience, I think that’s appropriate.

But Good Friday has its place in the story, and rushing through it year after year can make it easy for us to forget what Jesus truly did, what he suffered, on our behalf. And so, I’m deeply smitten with Marty Machowski’s new book, Darkest Night Brightest Day, which—get this!—is really two books in one. The book’s format means that we can’t speed through the sad parts of the story to the happy ending: we have to read Darkest Night slowly, one day and a time during Holy Week. Then we pause. And then, we physically flip the book over and begin a new story—Brightest Day—that takes us from the Resurrection to Pentecost.

Darkest Night Brightest Day, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

I love this. I cannot tell you enough how I love it.

Our old pastor once sent us home from a Good Friday service with the injunction to forget the end of the story, just for that Saturday. Think what it would have been like for the disciples, who didn’t know yet what would happen on Sunday, to bury Jesus and walk away from that tomb. To reconcile, for many of them, with the fact that they had abandoned him and now had no opportunity to seek forgiveness. Machowski’s book gives us room to stop. To close the book. To wonder, whether we mean to or not, What if that was the end of the story?

Darkest Night Brightest Day, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

But it isn’t, and that’s the beauty of Easter. Jesus didn’t stay dead; the sun rose. The brightest day followed the darkest night, and we have hope in Christ that we will rise with him one day. What joy! And because this book takes the Easter story all the way through Pentecost, we are reminded of the hope we have through his Spirit—we are part of his continuing work. The dark night broke before the light of day.


This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the upcoming release of Wild Things & Castles in the Skya book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie & Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author whose books are warmly recommended in Wild Things.


Darkest Night Brightest Day: A Family Devotional for the Easter Season
Marty Machowski; Phil Schorr (2022)

Jesus Rose for Me

In the decade or so since we bought our house, I have planted many things: rhubarb, periwinkle, strawberries, summer after summer of vegetables, even a few forsythia bushes. But a few weeks ago, I planted our first tree—the first living thing that may outgrow and outlive us.

I named him Pevensie, in honor of the apple orchard in Prince Caspian, and settled him into a pit in our backyard while two houses away roofers cussed theatrically over the thock, thock, thock of their hammers. It was all very romantic.

But planting a seed is always an act of hope, or at the very least of wishful thinking. We scatter wildflower seeds each year for the bees, and every fall we shake the poppy seed pods all over our flower beds (and driveway—our little ones mean well). We plant seeds in the hope that they will emerge in the spring, having bided their time and done battle with birds and rocks and frost. We plant an apple tree—which is, at this point, basically a large stick harvested from a very kind friend’s yard—and hope that it will weather not one winter but dozens. May it survive not a handful of birds but a hundred, coming year after year to bear its fruit away.

And so it is with Easter: a season of hope, in which all creation seems to participate, when the brambles and bare branches that seemed dead only a few weeks ago start running with sap and putting on buds. Outside and in, this is a time of transformation. So it is, also, with parenting: all these little conversations are like seeds sown in our children’s hearts that will, Lord willing, blossom and bear fruit years from now.

Jesus Rose For Me, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

Jared Kennedy’s Jesus Rose For Me is an excellent little Easter-seed, meant for the soil of the tiniest hearts. Kennedy has slowly and quietly become one of my favorite current authors for children, as he writes in a way that explains tricky concepts so beautifully (more on his Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible in a separate post!). But this book is the Easter book I was looking for, all those Easters I spent years searching for a great book about the Resurrection for toddlers—not too graphic, you know, but not too fluffy either.

Jesus Rose For Me, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

Jesus Rose For Me begins with Palm Sunday and ends with the Resurrection, and invites readers into the story of Holy Week. Trish Mahoney’s illustrations, too, are rapidly filling our bookshelves, as she brings a bright simplicity to each story and captures so beautifully some of the more abstract portions of Scripture with symbols that just make sense to toddlers. I believe this book is comprised of excepts from Kennedy’s story Bible, and each one ends with a discussion question. Those questions are, I think, where the tilling comes in: Josie loves these questions, and I love hearing her answers. As she talks, I can almost see the seedlings sprout.


Jesus Rose for Me
Jared Kennedy; Trish Mahoney (2020)

Easter is Coming

I’m used to feeling like an oddball during Lent—fasting privately and aware, perhaps, of a few other friends from church who spend the weeks leading up to Easter forgoing good things and meditating on what is in us that made the cross necessary. We gather at church on Sundays and sing the “Kyrie Elieson”—”Lord, have mercy upon us”—while our neighbors go about their spring-time business.

But last spring, I saw grief, fear, and uncertainty in the eyes of our neighbors, cashiers, and teachers (as they passed my daughters’ school books through the passenger window of my van). We all felt it: This is not how it’s meant to be. Something has gone horribly wrong.

Easter is Coming, by Tama Fortner | Little Book, Big Story

This spring is, already, gloriously different. Last week I took my daughter with me to the store for the first time in a year. We had dinner with vaccinated family members—indoors, not around the firepit in the driveway. The neighbor I’ve brought groceries every so often told me that she’s almost clear to do her own shopping, and I wanted to cry and hug her right there in her front yard.

Crocuses, snowdrops, chickadees—they’re all going about their usual spring business, but I want to beam when I see them. They are still going! We are still here. We aren’t finished with this pandemic, of course, but we’ve made it this far.

And Easter is coming.

Easter is Coming, by Tama Fortner | Little Book, Big Story

Tama Fortner’s picture book is full of movement, color, and light—it captures all this perfectly. Beginning with the beginning, Easter is Coming follows the story of Scripture from the garden of Eden onward and shows how every chapter of the story points to Jesus’s resurrection—and how even our chapter, now, points back to it.

I am a little in awe of how she manages this—in a board book, no less!—but she succeeds beautifully in showing how Jesus’s death and resurrection is the climax of all Scripture. Wazza Pink’s illustrations give the story texture and a lovely sense of abundance.

We are not out of the woods yet, I know. I know. And it’s tempting to believe that a “return to normal” is the thing our hearts truly long for. But Easter reminds us to set our sights higher: whatever comes next, the cross is behind us, and Jesus’s resurrection is finished, for our sake. The next time we see him will be his true return; he will set all things right. Easter is coming!


Easter is Coming
Tama Fortner; Wazza Pink (2019)